Regulator to add further range to 5G auctions
The telecom regulator plans to hold an auction for the 3400-3700MHz spectrum range meant for the 5G network by next year, adding a range after announcing auctions for four spectrum ranges in February.
The National Broadcasting and Telecommunications Commission (NBTC) expects to write to the Digital Economy and Society (DES) Ministry this month, asking it to urge Thaicom Plc, the country's sole satellite service provider, to vacate the range it currently occupies so an auction can be held.
NBTC secretary-general Takorn Tantasith said the auction on the 3400-3700MHz range will be held next year, taking place after the four spectrum auctions in February.
Thaicom's concession for the 3400-3700MHz range with the DES Ministry expires in 2021.
"It is too early to elaborate on an exact timeline for the 3400-3700MHz auction, but it will happen in 2020," Mr Takorn said.
The winning bidders will only be able to use the spectrum after the concession held by Thaicom ends.
The NBTC law lets the regulator recall unused or partially used spectrum ranges from their holders in exchange for compensation.
He said the NBTC has talked with the DES minister several times about the spectrum recall, and the proposal needs to be submitted to the cabinet for consideration.
After cabinet approval, the proposal needs to be forwarded to the imminent national 5G committee chaired by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for deliberation.
Mr Takorn said that to make the 3400-3700MHz range available for auction would cost 3-4 billion baht for the NBTC, including adjustment of related equipment and compensation for satellite TV dish viewers using Thaicom's rented transponders.
The combined reserve price for 300MHz of bandwidth on the 3400-3700MHz range may be 40-50 billion baht, he said.
"The 3400-3700MHz range is the most interesting range for mobile operators, as it is the global standard adopted for 5G," Mr Takorn said.
Pisut Ngamvijitwong, an analyst at Kasikorn Securities, said the three major mobile operators are likely to reserve their budgets for the range, which is the most adopted globally for 5G tech.
"Although the three operators are most likely to bid for both the 2600MHz and 26GHz ranges to ensure their competitive position on 5G service, they may also be interested in the coveted middle range for 5G," Mr Pisut said.
The NBTC announced last week that it would hold a four-spectrum auction meant for 5G on Feb 16. The ranges are 700MHz, 1800MHz, 2600MHz and 26GHz.